My Cancer Journey: Part 4: Chemotherapy
So I never realized that there are hundreds of different chemicals to fight different cancers. The list is quite extensive! I am on only 3 of these drugs, known together as BEP, to combat my cancer. I will be on 3 cycles consisting of 3 weeks each. All together I will receive 21 days of treatment in those 9 weeks. Each treatment lasts from 3-4 hours, the days with only the one drug is about 1 hour.
The 3 week cycle looks like this:
Day 1 – BEP
Day 2 – EP
Day 3 – EP
Day 4 – EP
Day 5 – EP
Day 8 – B
Day 15 – B
Rinse, repeat, 3 times.
Here is a short rundown of the drugs I am receiving for my treatment.
B – Bleomycin: Based on a bacteria called Streptomyces Verticillus that was discovered in 1966 when the Japanese scientist Hamao Umezawa found anticancer activity while screening culture filtrates of the bacteria. It works because it breaks apart cancer cells faster than the other cells by attacking the DNA. One of the long term effects of this drug is a Lung Toxicity risk, so I am forever a card carrying member of the “no scuba diving” club.
E – Etoposide: Made from the root of the Wild Mandrake plant. It was discovered by a team of Swiss scientists in 1966 and approved for use in 1983. It works by unwinding the DNA which causes it to break apart, and prevents the DNA strands from forming. This is the chemo drug that causes alopecia (hair loss) as well as the loss of taste.
P – cisPlatin: This drug is created from Platinum. That’s right, I have platinum in my blood! This drug causes DNA strands to link together unnaturally and triggers their death. It works because it targets the fastest proliferating cells which are in theory, the cancerous ones.
So there you have it. Bacteria, a plant extract, and a heavy metal, all mixed up and poured into my blood. It amazes me that researchers can come up with this stuff. The Lord certainly has blessed us with these medical interventions. All three were approved for cancer treatment in the late 70’s and early 80’s. I am blessed to be living today, when my prognosis is far better than it would have been 40 years ago.
So these are the 3 drugs that will fight my seminoma.
But Wait! There’s more!
There are a whole slew of other drugs that I am taking to combat the side effects of nausea and vomiting that the chemotherapy drugs causes. The anti-nausea meds I have to take cause me constipation and severe heartburn. So to combat that I take a laxative, and a stool softener (cuz I just had surgery and can’t “strain at stool”) and antacids. Even though I am exhausted from the chemo, I find that I sometimes lay awake at night staring at the ceiling, due to the steroid I have to take… so I also take Gravol at night to knock me out so I can sleep. Then there is Benadryl in case I have a reaction to one of the meds…
So there you have the drugs I am on.
Alright enough with the dry facts…
How was my week?
Last night was Friday and Teresa and I had a wonderful date night. We went downtown Vancouver and watched the sunset on English Bay and then had a wonderful dinner at the Boathouse.
Today Uncle Bill and and his friend Daphne came by for visit. Both of them have had spouses who passed away from cancer, so it was a really nice visit. They understand what we are going through, and both of them have fervent faith lives and spoke fondly of the Lord Jesus. I really appreciated the visit and it was really nice to meet Daphne.
Then Mom and Dad had us over for dinner, and dad barbecued tenderloin steak for my “last meal”. If heaven were a food, this would be it…I enjoyed two steaks, many potatoes, two helpings of Caesar salad and a glass of chardonnay to the glory of God!
Sunday. We went to church in the morning and had Lord’s Supper with the congregation. I have to say, that often I take Lord’s supper for granted. But sitting there, the day before chemotherapy, with the family of Christ, partaking of the bread and wine, something hit me. It was real. It was nice. Afterwards we had a communal lunch in the basement and lots of fellowship. It was a really nice way to spend a day before I start the second part of my treatment.
Day 20: Chemo Day 1
So how was the first week of chemo? I won’t lie. It started well, but ended rough.
Teresa took the day off to come with me for my first treatment. I was nervous, I admit it, so it was nice to have Teresa there. I received the BEP, and it went well. I had no adverse reactions, but I was quite tired that evening.
For dinner, Leanne made us these awesome baked tacos and salad, it was delicious and amazing! I Lloved it. In fact I ate the leftovers that night as well! Feel free to send those again 🙂
Teresa had to work, so My mom drove me today, and stayed with me for the whole time. Since I had to drop all my classes, and she has a good knowledge of classical Greek, she decided to test me with Greek flash cards. I need a lot of work!
I started developing really bad heartburn around 1130. Not the beer and wings type, that only happens when you bend over or try to sleep, but the kind that incessantly bothers you no matter what you do. It was so painful. The nurses gave me almagel which helped immensely. After chemo, I had to go to the school and pick up Meagan who was sick with a stomach bug.
For dinner, Alix sent us this amazing healthy homemade minestrone style soup with beef, chickpeas and veggies, it was so good! She even sent fresh Parmesan cheese to sprinkle on it. Amazeling! She sent so much soup, that I have had it for lunch a couple times now as well. I need to get that recipe!
By evening, the fatigue was already kicking in and its only day 2.
Nausea / heartburn was bad today, and twice I upset the kids because of my poor handling of it. When I came downstairs in the morning, I could smell the scented soap Meagan had used to wash her hands, and it turned my stomach. I asked Teresa, “What is that smell, it is making me sick.” Meagan was upset that she had “made me sick” and went and washed her hands with unscented soap…
I felt really bad.
At dinner time, I upset the kids again. They were being so noisy, and I was feeling a bit nauseated, so I said something to the effect of, “You kids are going to make me sick with all this noise!”…I immediately apologized, “I am sorry, you are not making me sick, daddy is sick from the medication, I would just like some quiet time so I can feel better.”
Brain fog, or “Chemo-brain” is a real thing. And on day 3 it began to manifest itself. I am already forgetting things. I forgot to bring my book to chemo, I forgot to put on deodorant…ugh…I and worst of all I forgot put the chicken in the crockpot for dinner, so once I was all hooked up, I sent Kevin, who drove me to chemo, back home to do it. Thanks Kevin! Sorry about the mess!
The nurses gave me almagel again at chemo, and it is amazing, so I tried to find some for home use, but none of the pharmacies around here carry it. I ordered some from London Drugs, but it will not be in for a week. Tums it is…
I awoke with energy today. But ugh Heartburn, why must you plague me? At Chemo, the nurses called the oncologist who recommended rinitidine for my heartburn. My mom drove me again, it was nice to have her there.
Today was also my follow up with the urologist (surgeon). He was very happy with how I am healing, and said that his part his done. I still have to be careful not to lift too much or over exert myself, but it is good to hear some good news. After the meeting with him, I bought some rinitidine for my heartburn. Oh what a blessing that has been! Way better than tums!
I went home and slept on the couch with out a sour stomach, with out pain, without tossing.
That evening Adryon came by with a feast of Salmon, Aspragus, Mashed yams, and beet salad! It was all so good!!!! I am so glad we figured out the heartburn issue before this meal arrived. I can’t wait for the next meal she brings by.
I did not have a ride figured out for the next day, but I didn’t care. After dinner I was so tired, that I would have just taken a taxi…but Rob texted and asked if I needed a ride, and he arranged them for me. I really appreciated that.
It is an amazing blessing to have people who pour love upon us.
I had some energy when i awoke. But it is the last day of the week, and I did not want to go to treatment. Seriously. I got up and listened to some hymns. “Abide With Me” sung by Indelible Grace came on, and I wept as I sang along. The presence of God is overwhelming right now. I wish I didn’t feel so sick, but his presence more that makes up for it all! After getting up and eating and hydrating I felt pretty good, and by the time Allan arrived to drive me to the treatment I felt great. My pastor came by to visit while I was there. That was really nice. Then Naomi drove me home. She has prego-brain, and I have chemo-brain…it was an interesting ride home!
When I got home, I listened to some hymns and noticed that I had some mild tinnitus, or ringing in the ears. It lasted for a minute and then subsided. But I rapidly descended into lethargy. Within an hour I was done.
Today was also Noah’s second birthday. I was awake for his gifts, but I was gone shortly thereafter…
For the 24 hours after chemo, I was wrecked. Saturday morning was very hard. I again experienced some mild tinnitus, or ringing in the ears, which is a side effect of the chemo. It was mild and lasted only a minute, but I was not feeling well at all. I was grumpy, tired and bleh… But for lunch we had soup and sandwiches, which I forced myself to eat, and by 1pm, I had renewed energy.
It was amazing.
I even made chicken noodle soup from scratch. Yes, it is my thing, I love making homemade chicken noodle soup. I needed help with the heavy lifting, but I had the energy to do everything else. We now have a freezer stocked with delicious healthy soup. Oh and I even vacuumed the living room – I shouldn’t have done that. That evening, once the kids were in bed, I ate some of Noah’s ice cream cake from his birthday yesterday, and then hobbled up the stairs. I barely made it up to the bedroom, cuz, yes I overdid it today… But having energy was such a blessing!
I was exhausted after all that, but it felt good to not have to be waited on hand and foot.
If I have learned anything this week, it is that the Lord is Good. His mercies are new every morning, and in His strength I will get through this. I am blessed to have a wife who is a warrior holding this family together – it has been hard to have to swallow my pride and accept that I can’t do this alone. We also have so many wonderful friends and loved ones who continue to pour love on us. The food, the drives, the visits, the prayers…
We are blessed.
We are grateful, and yes, even joyful.